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Ask HN: Best IRC channels?
125 points by dakrisht on Feb 1, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments
What are the best IRC channels for developers, security, networks, programming, general tech discussion, data science, etc. Just looking for some recco's.

There is one particular use of IRC channels that is insanely useful, that I'd like to share.

On various programming language channels, there are ad-hoc expression evaluation bots that experienced people use to guide newcomers through the intricacies of the language. If you're new to Haskell, for example, what you can do is grab the logs for the past 3 years, grep for "> " (used to invoke the evaluator) and you have instant insight into how an experienced Haskeller's mind works. It can speed up your learning by a factor of 10 compared to reading papers / blogs / formal tutorials. I know because it did this for me.

excerpt of #haskell quality of life https://gist.github.com/quchen/5280339

  < xQuasar> i just want to get kicked out of a bunch of channels for fun
  13:20 < xQuasar> why is no one cooperating with me
So brilliant.

< Iceland_jack> xQuasar: We are cooperating with you, you're just not aware that your goal is learning Haskell Hilarious with 1984 undertones. I love it!

"< quchen> Haskell is invariant under gender. Really!"

Some great stuff in there :)

I think merijn got the highscore in the conversation though :-P

I think the whole channel joining in on the "we're going to troll you back by being super nice" is the real winner.

And turning half-trolls into students like an Aikido move.

Yes, I definitely recommend the #haskell IRC channel on Freenode. It is such a friendly place where everyone is eager to help. I have learned a great many things from my time there. It's one of the biggest reasons to learn the Haskell language!

#haskell on Freenode is one of the best IRC channels I've ever used. Great people and very helpful.

Today you can just follow HaskellTips on twitter. Much less hassle and clutter

Tangentally related: #gaygeeks on FreeNodes. Tired of being the old LGBT person amoung you geeky friends? Tired of being the only geeky person amoung your LGBT friends?

I don't know that there are too many interesting "abstract" IRC communities, beyond those Freenode channels specific to a given programming language or technology.

I leave a connection to Freenode running while I'm at work, in a few channels related to my job... so that during builds, or other short bursts of idle time, I can glace over and see if there are any questions I can answer. Likewise, I throw out a quick question of my own every now and then, when I'm afraid it's too subjective in nature to avoid being closed by StackOverflow-lawyers.

I've lost interest in general chat, outside of specific questions and answers. From what I've seen, the nicer communities are the newer channels. Ironically, they degrade over time as their underlying technology matures. You would think that channels like #clojure and #go-nuts would be populated by immature hipsters, while ##java would be made up of 40-something corporate types. However, I've found that those first two channels are welcoming and thoughtful, with interesting discussion always taking place... whereas ##java (even its mods) frequently sound like pre-teens yelling profanity at each other on XBox Live.

As has been extensively documented, the mainstream kills discussion communities. Being hard to find is a proxy for an intelligence filter. And ones without moderation (such as IRC) suffer the worst.

This is going to be borderline off-topic as it's not general for developers.

I have to mention #clojure on freenode for being an incredibly welcoming IRC channel. The discussions you will see can be very interesting, and the community is more than often willing to help. Living in Japan, I was worried about the timezones being an issue, but there seems to be people from different parts of the world on the channel, making it very nice.

Second on #clojure. Although I've noticed it got a bit 'crowded' the last couple of months. It sucks for me since now my questions often get drowned. :P

Third on #clojure being welcoming

Personally, I never found IRC to be a helpful tool for learning new things from unfamiliar people.

To me, IRC has always been a "grapevine" tool, where etiquette, social pecking orders and gossip are shared amongst a smallish close-knit social circle. IRC always feels more like a social scene, and a distraction.

If anything, perhaps an IRC channel is useful for managing fluid, rapidly changing situations, where you might need an up-to-date, live information source, to use in immediate decision making (hence, why bot net command and control tends to be integrated into IRC programs), but, otherwise, chat logs from IRC usually read like a disorganized array of participant's various scattered streams of consciousness.

Are you looking for reading material, or a hangout?

On the flip side hanging out in #nginx taught me so much. I started helping out other people. Started a blog to write about common topics which caused me to write a book about nginx and currently planning another one. Ultimately IRC is a tool and like most other tools it is what you make of it. Become a contributor to channels and you will learn so much.

I disagree with this for many application or language specific channels on Freenode. In fact some Freenode communities have a #subject-offtopic channel which is intended for the social chit-chat you described, and if you're seen making small talk in the #subject channels you often find yourself getting your wrists slapped and told to take the conversation elsewhere.

As for channels I've found useful; all Freenode:

    #go-nuts (Go language)
    #mysql (no explanation needed)
    #android-dev (for times when I'm scratching my head while writing Android apps)
I tend to think of these types of IRC channels as real time support; on occasions when I've tried to resolve an issue myself, failed and couldn't find any applicable manual, blog, nor stackoverflow question online to guide me through.

Although I agree with you, as others have pointed out you're selling IRC short for certain use cases. Language or domain specific channels are great for getting rapid responses to well thought out queries.

> To me, IRC has always been a "grapevine" tool, where etiquette, social pecking orders and gossip are shared amongst a smallish close-knit social circle. IRC always feels more like a social scene, and a distraction.

This is certainly a problem is many IRC channels, but I have no idea what to do about it. One thing that is annoying is watching interesting conversation get disintegrated by the regulars taking over to talk about banal everyday topics like what they're currently eating or just ate, etc. If you hang out in any room for long enough you're likely to experience the "I've been here since..." pissing contest.

IRC is still massively useful though. Don't sell it so short.

Edit: I forgot to mention that IRC is also a base for lots of open source project collaboration. Look at the mozilla irc network for an example. Getting rapid responses to check your assumptions is really helpful if you have to touch an unfamiliar section of the code base for a patch.

I am not a programmer but when I was messing around with and making stuff with Processing last year I went to the IRC for assistance and I could not have been treated any nicer. It was like having 3 teachers there whenever I needed them (most of the time). I think it is #processingjs on freenode maybe.

But yeah, I would definitely go to IRC for help based on that experience

Many IRC channels have the kind of social pecking orders you describe, either in the form of in-groups or general rudeness to newbies, but many are still extremely informative and helpful.

#wikipedia-en is a channel where english wikipedia editors and admins hang out, and it is fun watching their discussions. #wikimedia-dev is where most of Mediawiki development happens these days, so that is nice too. #wikimedia-opearations is fun too once you ignore the icinga bot spam - not often do you get to see a world class ops team operate that transparently :)

I've found #bash to be full of very helpful people. They don't get tired at all of being asked common bash questions. On most channels, if you ask a common question, they tell you to RTFM. But not on #bash. They still tell you to RTFM, but nicely, and usually after they give you an actual answer. Especially that greybot guy.

+1. Bash people are great.

I've recently been using SaltStack and have found #saltstack on Freenode to be very welcoming and helpful which is nice. Often you go into a channel and it's a ghost town or out right hostile to relatively simple questions. I think OSS projects in general could learn a bit of "marketing" in this regard, if your IRC channels are toxic, I immediately think your community as a whole may be toxic.

I'll second this -- #salt is a welcoming channel full of informed and helpful types. Similarly #mynt. Heck, I'd suggest that almost any free software project where at least one of the primary developers loiters would be an answer to your question.

I hang out on Freenode, in #nimrod, ##php, #elementary-dev and a couple of others.

I'd love to know some good security ones to idle in; I've got a bit of experience in it and am trying to expand it some more, and would love a place to ask questions regarding web security and the like.

##security (Freenode) is the channel to go.

Try ##crypto

Nowadays, I mainly hang out on irc because of the #lesswrong channel on freenode. There is plenty of intelligent discussion, HN readers and no real topic.

The #postgresql community on freenode has won me over many times for being mature, and absolutely competent over their domain. Solid stuff.

Agreed. One can learn a lot of practical postgres from camping out in there.

It's also where I found out about a handy tool for demystifying EXPLAIN output: http://explain.depesz.com/

just connect to some popular network like freenode, and retrieve the channel list, and sort by users.

#ubuntu 1701 #archlinux 1695 #bitcoin 1602 #debian 1492 ##linux 1360 #python 1349 #freenode 1304 #haskell 1200 #Node.js 1186 #dogecoin 1120 #gentoo 1091 #git 1047 #puppet 956 ##javascript 941 #vim 936 #python-unregistered #go-nuts 893 #android 889 #bash 858 #ruby 847 #jquery 750 #postgresql 747 #litecoin 711 ##math 701 #bitcoin-otc 700 #emacs 700 #openstack 697 #docker 693 #clojure 679 #perl 653 #mysql 646 ##networking 642 #angularjs 621 ##security 611 #defocus 599 ##php 596 ##electronics 595 #nginx 584 #cisco 582 #digitalocean 569

And then pick the channels with the least users.

People are often assholes on IRC. I think the experience of using the channel is part of the OP's question.

Late reply, but #electronics is full of the nicest, most helpful people I've ever met.

Also note that Perl has its own hosted IRC channels at irc.perl.org

##programming on freenode is terrible. Don't go there.

#startups on Freenode was mentioned here before, I think.

The last time I checked, that channel has almost nothing to do with startups.

Nope, but it's entirely full of HN readers.

It comes and goes. It's way less serious and more off topic and casual than HN, but there are quite a few of us there.

Other than that one, I sometimes visit tech specific channels like #erlang or #chicagoboss or whatever I'm using... #postgresql is pretty good, #rubyonrails is a bit crowded these days.

#startups is a very unfriendly place with power-tripping mods. Don't go there.

There are very few people with ops in there and one of them is well known on HN (http://swombat.com/). Now that I think of it I've never seen any other op speak.

Usually I join topic-specific channels, got tons of answers in #django , #javascript, #drupal, #flask, #python, #celery, #nodejs etc ..

Those are on freenode, there are channels for software users (e.g: photoshop) but on a different servers.

I have always found a bunch of nice people with a lot of knowledge in the various programming and tech channels on Freenode, like #twisted and #pocoo

#debian on EFNet also has a great bunch of people.

I would head over to #debian on OFTC, since EFNet blocks Tor :( Perhaps not the same people, but still typically a sizeable room.

The official #debian is on OFTC, not EFNet.

I did not know that, but the guys on EFNet are still awesome :-)

#rust on irc.mozilla.org. They're a super helpful bunch.

#programming-language-you-really-like and #distro-you-really-like on Freenode I guess...

Is there a #hn or #hackernews?

Not that I know of. One should really be started, as the suggestion given is usually #startups on Freenode, and I didn't last 5 minutes in that room. Really poor experience from the start. Not that sharing #hn around is going to result in a better room, but it would be great to have some faster conversation around stories posted on HN, among other topics. I know I have had my mind changed, or at least challenged, regarding some of my beliefs from discussion here.

Yes. Its not really official though, just a few hang out there.

#hackernews on freenode.

Sorry, also there is #startups on freenode.

Freenode #emacs, ##linux, #nimrod, #julia and #d.

Nimrod's gang (including Araq) are very friendly and welcoming.

#julia and #d are very quiet though (except for the bots).

And #emacs -- well, that one channel which is lenient towards off-topic chats!

No... #emacs is not lenient... It's just that everything is applicable to Emacs and vice-verse. ;-)

An approach that seems to work well for me is to use IRC as a way to communicate with groups people that mostly I know in person and share a common interest with. That way, I'm able to avoid a social pecking order or having to be "initiated" into a group. You may already be in one of these groups already, though the medium isn't necessarily always IRC--think Skype (text) chats groups with a subset of regulars.

Remember, you can always drag others along with you and start your own channel.

You're welcome to join #nirc, it's a channel originally created for https://github.com/cjstewart88/nirc but its since turned into a hangout for old coworkers and friends. We are all developers. Sometimes we are helping each other and other times we are talking about random shit... or in the event someone has a nirc question, we talk about that!

I'm a bit late to the party, but I've found ##csharp to be a fantastic channel, Very rarely do I not get a great and thoughtful response back to any issues I've had. They're also incredibly helpful when it comes to general .NET questions, which tend to get asked in ##csharp because ##asp.net is usually dead.

I really enjou #infra-talk on FreeNode, sysadminy stuff without ties to any specific product or tool.

I hang out on #gamedev@irc.afternet.org, very talented people help each other out there.

#lp101 on ...I think?...EFNet was the hotbed of locksport/mechanical security discussion and research for quite a while. I was amazed by some of the results of IRC-based collaboration in that community.

#linux, #ruby, #rubyonrails, #bitcoin, #javascript, #nginx, #ubuntu, #rubymotion ... to name a few I visit. They are all on the Freenode network.

More or less the same for me...

#installgentoo on irc.installgentoo.com

#web on freenode for web development

What up Jayflux, #web is good place full of helpful people regarding all around web development topics.

I've found #web to be slightly toxic.

#postgresql and #qgis on freenode can both be really helpful when you are running into problems.

For various tech subjects, servers, bsd, etc. #baot on irc.rizon.net is my go-to.

Networks, #networker in ircnet and #ix in /irc.terahertz.net

One that i run is www.chatwebdev.com webby types mainly UK based.

I'd recommend #iphonedev on Freenode for anything iOS.

I haven't had great experiences there personally. The conversations aren't the most enlightening and there's a lot of ripping on new developers asking obvious questions. I'm a decent developer at this point, but early on, asking questions in there wasn't pleasant. I'm a big proponent of encouraging new developers of asking lots of questions and those that discourage it are really not helping the community.

That said, it's not all bad. I still hop in every now and then.

Lots of good discussion on ##hott and #agda...

#irssi on freenode, really helpful people

#shitfire!!! (on freenode). ;)

#wizardchan on irc.rizon.net

A+ website

#lounge @ entropynet

irc.entropynet.net is the server, as for some unknown reason they didn't think entropy.net was a good idea.

It was already registered?

irc.mozilla.org has a lot of cool channels


#defocus / ##defocus



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